We are New Jersey parole violation attorneys who represent many parolees charged with violating the terms and conditions of their parole. The violation process can be very confusing and intimidating, particularly to a parolee facing their first violation. As such, we thought it would be helpful to parolees and their families to present a general overview of the parole violation process. As noted, the discussion below is very general; bear in mind that the best way to understand any individual violation matter is to consult with a parole violation lawyer in New Jersey.
The violation process starts with an arrest and a charge. Oftentimes, a parole officer will learn of facts indicating that what they view as a serious violation has been committed, and will then direct the parolee to report to the parole office. The parolee will be questioned in the office, and will almost certainly be asked to give a statement admitting to the facts underlying the violation. It is almost certainly not in the parolee’s interest to give such a statement. The fact is that a decision was probably made before they arrived to charge them with a violation and take them into custody, and this will occur regardless of whether or not they give a statement. Any statement given will just be used against them at a subsequent violation hearing. Therefore, the best course of action is to say nothing and be taken into custody. This sounds harsh; however, the absence of a statement will make it that much more difficult for parole to prove the facts underlying the charges.
Some parolees attempt to represent themselves at hearings. In our opinion, this is a mistake since the parolee will probably lack the skills to effectively cross-examine the parole officer who will be the primary witness against them, or to know when and how to raise objections. The best chance of success at a hearing comes with representation by a New Jersey parole violation lawyer at all phases of the violation process.
The first step in the process is for counsel to enter an appearance with parole and obtain discovery. Counsel will not be given discovery until the parolee confirms with parole that the attorney is representing them. Once that happens, parole will send discovery to counsel, which consists of the charges, documents or other materials relating to the investigation of the underlying facts, and the parolee’s Chronological Supervision Report or CSR. A description of every event in the parolee’s supervision including, without limitation, every interaction that the parolee has with parole, is recorded in the CSR. Thus, the relevant entries in the CSR, and any other related documentation, makes up the discovery for the violation.
The parolee is entitled to two hearings, both of which are conducted by a hearing officer who works for parole. The first is a probable cause hearing. As the name suggests, parole’s burden to support the charges at this hearing is relatively minimal. In the unlikely event that probable cause is not found, the hearing officer will dismiss some or all of the charges. The parolee should not depend upon this happening, since it is typically easy to find probable cause. The hearing officer will prepare a summary of the probable cause hearing, which will then be sent to the board for review. Counsel is afforded the opportunity to review this summary before it is sent to the board. If the board concurs with the hearing officer, it will issue a decision stating that probable cause was found and the parolee should be held for a final revocation hearing.
The final revocation hearing is very different, since parole must now establish the facts underlying the charges by the higher standard of “clear and convincing evidence”. In addition to cross-examination of the parole officer and any other witnesses produced by parole, the parolee has the right to testify in their own behalf or call their own witnesses and present favorable documentary evidence. Parole must receive basic information concerning the parolee’s witnesses (e.g., their name and a brief description of the subject matter of their testimony), as well as copies of any documents the parolee plans to present, in advance of the hearing.
Although the probable cause hearing and final revocation hearing can be combined into a single hearing, this is not always the best course of action. For strategic reasons, it is sometimes better to separate the hearings. While this means that the parolee will have to remain in custody pending the final revocation hearing, we encourage our parole clients to think long-term. The real goal is to avoid a parole hit which could be as long as 14 months.
Once the final revocation hearing is concluded, the hearing officer will prepare a summary with a recommendation to be sent to the board. Counsel will, again, have the opportunity to review this beforehand. If the board concurs with the findings and recommendation of the hearing officer, it will issue a decision stating so and imposing a sentence. These decisions are final administrative adjudications, which can be appealed to the New Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division. As in other cases, the appeal must be filed within 45 days of the decision, and the parolee can receive a 30-day extension for good cause.
One final note – Many parolee’s are moved from one facility to another during the violation process. Parolees and/or their family members should not read anything into this. Generally speaking, it has little if anything to do with the violation matter, and relates more to internal institutional issues.
James S. Friedman, Esq. is a parole violation attorney in New Jersey who frequently represents parolees charges with violating the terms, conditions and/or restrictions of their parole. If you or someone you know has been charged with a violation, contact Mr. Friedman immediately to start mapping out your defense.